Over the years, Farzana has become a familiar figure at the Ali Abad orthopaedic centre in Kabul. She works as Head of the prosthetics department.
She about how far she has come since she first passed through the hospital’s doors as a patient:
“One day I was going to do the laundry, near my aunt’s house. Our area had been cleared of mines, so we were confident there wasn’t anymore danger. I was shocked when the mine exploded. I could see one of my legs was missing, the other was wounded, as was my hand. I thought I’d be taken to hospital and that somehow they’d operate and I would go back home, even though I could see my leg had gone! At the hospital, they amputated me and that was the hardest bit. I thought I would never again be able to live and work normally, both in society and within my family. I had no hope.”
But her life took an unexpected turn when at 14, the centre provided her with a prosthetic leg.
She was then hired by the same centre to work in the laundry. In a fortunate twist that would change her life, Farzana was given the opportunity to enrol on on a prosthesis technician training course.
Six years later, she worked her way up the ladder to become head of the department. She is also a firm favourite with patients
Talking about her rapport with the patients, she says:
“I try to use kindness and smile a lot, to reassure them. I tell them not to be depressed and to try and accept reality. I also tell them a prosthetic limb is not like a piece of wood. That with time, it becomes part of your body. So they should stop worrying, as it never helps.”
Run by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the centre mainly employs people who were disabled by the war.
Although this has no doubt helped Farzana to overcome her situation, she has found no such support with her relatives.
Even as the breadwinner in a family of eight, her father has never accepted her disability. Putting her family first and believing no one would want a disabled wife, she has not married and devotes herself to her work.
“As long as I work here, my future is brighter. But only God knows what future lies ahead of us. I just hope that better days are coming for myself, my family, my country, and for the people of Afghanistan.”
We now head to the Afghan province of Bamyan, some 200 kilometres west of Kabul. As well as being one of the country’s most peaceful regions, it is also one of the poorest.
Here we meet midwife Nafiza Naziri, who works with mobile medical teams funded by an Afghan NGO.
She travels the province to provide healthcare to women in some of the regions most remote villages.
For these women, Nafiza’s visits are essential. Without them they would have to travel hours to find the nearest medical centre.
Because of the village’s isolation, maternal mortality is high. In fact, Afghanistan is second only to Sierra Leon for the highest percentage of deaths among pregnant women and new mothers.
And just like in the rest of Afghanistan, the women and children here have paid the price of war.
Nafiza, who grew up and studied in Kabul, tells us about her own experiences:
“It was a very difficult and dangerous situation. My family and I were always migrating from one zone to the next, looking for secure places. My brother was killed during the war, he was just 28.”
But despite the odds, Nafiza finished her studies with the support of her family.
Now she feels it her duty to help other women in Afghanistan:
“Women are still vulnerable here, especially in the regions where war is still going on. They have no access to education and they can’t work. In those areas, you’re afraid to leave your house in case there’s a suicide attack.”
Although Nafiza says she no longer lives in fear in Bamyan, she admits she finds it hard to believe Afghanistan as a whole, will ever fully be at peace:
“I think there are a lot of countries which benefit from the conflict in Afghanistan and those countries perpetuate the war…. They actually create, support, and train various groups who are fighting against eachother on our territory. Those countries take advantage of our situation. On the other hand, the countries who want the war to end in Afghanistan have not succeeded in doing so. That’s why I think the war will continue.”
In the last part of our Afghan edition of Women and War, we meet Frozan, who witnesses the ravages of conflict, on a daily basis.